Documentary filmed in Natchez courthouse

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 12, 2007

The future federal courthouse and Natchez residents played staring roles in the filming of a documentary Thursday.

The building on Pearl Street has had many uses in the past, and it is now being transformed into a federal courthouse.

The U.S. General Services Administration, the federal entity in charge of the final work, has filmed the building’s progress since renovation started.

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A film crew arrived Tuesday to capture the building’s progress and talk to residents about the building’s past.

“It’s really transformed,” Producer Diane Park said during her visit Thursday.

“When I was first here, it was difficult for me to imagine it as a courthouse. Last time I was here, it was a stage that had flowers that were 10 years old.”

The stage has since been removed, and many other changes have been made. The double staircases leading up to what is now the courtroom are being refurbished, and the building has been made to conform to court standards.

The building has been used as a skating rink, opera hall, library and dance hall, among other things. And now, the building will have another use.

“It’s had many uses, it’s flexible, it can change. That’s what we’re trying to tell with this documentary,” said Jeffrey Jensen, GSA historic preservation specialist.

Even its various parts have multiple uses. Workers are using parts of the building no longer necessary to remodel the structure. For example, the wood from a Cyprus support is being used to re-floor the staircase landing.

Blending the past and present is a big theme of historic restoration, Jensen said.

“We aim for something that’s complementary and of its time,” Jensen said.

This documentary is different from others the GSA has completed around the nation, Park said.

“This documentary has more integration of small-town cultures,” Park said.

The construction of the courthouse, originally scheduled to finish this month, should be completed mid-April, Jensen said.

The crew will film the last segment when construction is complete, and the film should be available about two months later.